Petros Mavros (Lengo Taverna)

I first met Petros on a chilly winter evening shortly after he opened Lengo Taverna, and now we're hiding from the midday August sun, trying not to dehydrate as the humidity jumps through the 80s! Having been a satisfied customer numerous times over the months, I`d always found him to be good company and obviously passionate about his new project. So, to follow up from earlier this year (click), we are chatting inside about his history, his restaurant and what makes him tick.

Please, take in the Q&A below, and don't forget the short video clip above.

What inspired you to become a chef/restaurant owner?

I became a hotel orientated person from the first day I was born, my family had a hotel in Paphos in the 70s and I was working within the family business from when i was very young. So, it was an obligation to go down that path. I took my hotel management further education in Switzerland, and whilst there I discovered that from the hotel business, the part I really like is the food & beverage part. The decision to have a restaurant was made many many years ago, but, I had never managed to go down that path, and when the opportunity was given to me here, despite the middle of the crisis, despite the banks not being able to support it, I grabbed it. From the gypsum until the chairs, with my friends we all put a lot of passion, a lot of interest, a lot of love into this place (Lengo Taverna)

Squid and Rice Pilaf

For the squid:

  • 2 kg of squid (~10 cm long)
  • 3 medium onions
  • 2 garlic cloves (or fresh ginger)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ fresh green chili pepper
  • 1 piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • Olive oil

For the pilaf:

  • 4 small Cyprus coffee cups of rice (basmati, risotto or parboiled Cal.)
  • 1 onion
  • 8 coffee cups hot water
  • 1 cardamom seed
  • Thyme leafs
  • 1 cub veg. stock
  • Olive oil

If your squid is frozen, place in a bowl of tap water 10-15 mins to defreeze. Then as with fresh squid, simply clean, wash and leave to drain. The squid this size does not need to be cut since the size is ideal and it looks much nicer if is whole.

We will first do the rice, so whilst we prepare the squid, the rice gets cooked. Place the water to warm, and add the stock cube. Cut the onion in small square cuts, place some olive oil in a medium size pot and heat up, stir the onion until it becomes transparent, then add the rice and keep stirring until the rice stars to toast. Now, add the hot water and stir for 2–3 mins until the liquid thickens, then add cardamom. Take off the heat and cover, the rice will absorb the liquid, and be ready later.

Now the squid, finely cut your onions in half-rings, slice the garlic (or grate the ginger). In a pot, add 1 cup of olive oil, heat up and add the onion and the garlic (if you choose ginger wait until you add the squid) until onion is transparent. Add the squid, cinnamon stick and bay leaf, then stir until the squid shrinks. The pot will have taken liquid from the squid, so reduce the heat until liquid evaporates to 50%, then add wine (or choose beer) and simmer for 15-20 mins until the liquid becomes saucy.

By now your rice should be fine, check by mixing and if the liquid has been totally absorbed, it is perfect.

Prepare a nice salad if you wish, and serve rice as bed and the squid on top, and enjoy it with a glass of white dry wine. I suggest Ezousa Xinistery, in my opinion one of the best whites in the Cypriot market this year.

What route/path over the years brought you to be working in this restaurant today?

After education, I worked in different countries, in different positions, from running hotels. In Spain I opened two hotels one 4-star, the other 5-star down in Malaga. I was in Barcelona for 10 years working in various big companies within the restaurant and catering area. Always, always, in the direction of food & beverage, and the hospitality industry.

What was the most demanding cooking experience ?

Oh, definitely when I was in Barcelona cooking for a wedddng, and the starter was fried eggs ! It is very demanding, when you are cooking a €150/head menu with only 50 covers and the groom wants fried eggs and chorizo for starter, it was the greatest experience I had, because, we had to do the most perfect eggs ever for everyone, at the same time. In 2007, when I came back to Cyprus, i opened my own company providing training to hospitality industry, generally around online marketing but with other related tourism centred subjects. With 2013 bringing the Cyprus banking crisis and the recession, I decided for a change, and opened the restaurant in early 2014.

Current ‘fashion’ food/flavour/technique in your kitchen?

I don't have the right tool to do it yet, but sous-vide cooking, which I have tested in my oven, and it works. It isn't very suitable for a taverna, especially in summer, but we will go down that path in winter and we are using different ingredients for meat and fish for that. This style of cooking for sure is something that i will explore more and more in the coming months.

You have friends/family coming for dinner, what do you cook at home?

I have a problem, in that, most of my friends are in the same business, so, whatever I do I always feel I am being monitored. So, on these occassions, i tend to do extreme things at home, such as snails. For example, traditional Cyprus snails are boiled, served with vinegar and oil, but, I will do maybe a central Spanish recipe something a bit more spicy. I will do a rice pilaf. with lots of herbs and spices, so when they look its "oh, its just a pilaf", but when they taste, they wil find the difference. Or, a nice wholepiece of meat, such as a bon-fillet, 80 degrees in the oven for 6-7 hours which will come out like butter !! Or, when I`m in a hurry - fried eggs and tortillas :)

What is your favourite Cypriot dish?

Beef stew - stifado. No actually, generally the stifado cooking method I favour, so, if i see a rabbit stifado on a menu, and I trust the restaurant, then I will order it. We do beef stifado here in the restaurant, but, beef is not really a traditional Cypriot meat due to it not being available in the old times, however very good rabbit we have, so stewed rabbit with onions, some cinnamon - beautiful.

What is your view on restaurant review sites, and the wider social media platforms ?

I used to be a social media consultant, and I use social media for the restaurant to attract people, to keep them informed and show them what we do. Not only that, I like the interaction with people, so i did a contest recently where I took a went around Paphos monuments, buildings, special places and I took photo of a small item somewhere and left a small prize note there. Then posted to social media, 'where is it, find it and come to eat for two on me', so I use it a lot. As for review sites, well, opinions of people are very important, and review sites are very useful in this aspect, but, from my experience someone that has a good meal and evening out might leave a review, but most probably, they will forget. However, someone that didn't enjoy something - they will tell the world ! And you can't satisfy everyone's tastes all the time, for example this summer 7 of my main dishes on the meze during the hot summer are cold dishes, and a comment was made online that they were simply 'veggie dishes' !! Now, fava needs 3 1/2 hours to be made, it is a dish we invest time and effort into, but, if the customer didn't have it before, we try to explain and to educate about what we serve, because we are different and we do change our offering day to day, season to season.

For contact details, directions and additional information visit the Lengo Taverna listing

Geoff Dutch

I have been working in web development & ICT for small business for almost 20 years. When not in front of a computer, I enjoy staying active, like music, travelling and food! Born in North London last century, I lived in Pafos from 2006 - 2014 and since late 2014 in Limassol. Facebook / Twitter